Did The GOP's SCOTUS Obstruction Just Let A Cop Killer Escape Justice?

Did The GOP’s SCOTUS Obstruction Just Let A Cop Killer Escape Justice?

The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a tie vote on Thursday night, sparing an Alabama death row inmate from execution.

With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court is now evenly split between liberal and conservative justices, and it denied a request by the Alabama attorney general to  proceed in the execution of Vernon Madison, who was sentenced to death in 1985 for the murder of a police officer.

Eleventh-hour requests such as this are common for the Supreme Court, and in most cases the justices deny them with little or no comment and without revealing how they voted.

This case clearly shows just how deep the ideological divide is among the justices. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy publicly dissented — demonstrating that the death penalty is a divisive issue for the Supreme Court.

Last summer, Scalia joined this very group after a conservative majority upheld the legality of the protocol regarding lethal injection in Oklahoma. Were Scalia still alive, it’s entirely likely that his vote would have shifted the balance in favor of Alabama, resulting in Madison’s execution. And if Merrick Garland were already confirmed to the bench, the result, whichever way it went, would have been a majority decision instead of a split decision made by a SCOTUS deadlocked by an empty chair.

Related: What Went Wrong In This Horrific Botched Execution?

Madison’s execution was scheduled for Thursday, May 12, but was put on hold by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, pending a review into the 65-year-old man’s mental competency, after his lawyers said he has suffered a series of strokes that have resulted in dementia.

Madison is one of Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmates, and he was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, located in Atmore.

If the stay of execution hadn’t been enacted, this would have been the 15th execution in the United States and the second one in Alabama.

Madison’s lawyers say that he suffers from “vascular dementia” and would be too mentally incapacitated to withstand the lethal procedure, and the stay of execution gives them the chance to issue a formal appeal to the state’s decision to put him to death.

“Mr. Madison now speaks in a slurred manner, is legally blind, and can no longer walk independently as a consequence of damage to his brain,” the lawyers wrote in a statement. They noted that it’s “unconstitutional to execute an individual who is mentally incompetent.”

One question that remains is whether Merrick Garland, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Scalia would have sided with liberals or conservatives on the Supreme Court. It’s a difficult call, because his record as an appellate judge doesn’t shed much light on the issue of capital punishment.

Garland has served for nearly 20 years at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, after being confirmed in 1995. During his confirmation he said that “as a personal matter,” he considered the constitutionality of the death penalty as “settled law” and that “lower courts are to follow that rule.”

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The Justice is widely considered to be moderate–neither too liberal or too conservative–but even so Republicans have fought to obstruct Obama’s SCOTUS nominee at every turn. Some conservatives who are fed up with the endless obstructionism are fighting back and rallying to support Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

Madison was convicted of fatally shooting police officer Julius Schulte, in Mobile, Alabama. Schulte was responding to a domestic call and it’s reported that Madison shot him in the head with a .32 caliber pistol, according to court records.

He faced three trials after convictions in the first two were appealed and overturned. He was convicted in the third trial and the jury voted 8-4 and recommended life in prison, but the judge overrode the jurors and sentenced him to death.

Related: The Execution Of A Mentally Challenged Man

Image courtesy of Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

 

raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

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raptorella37@gmail.com'

Megan was born and raised in Ventura, California. She has since lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Mexico, and Costa Rica. While she has always been a liberal, her travels have informed her politics. She has worked for more than 25 years as a professional journalist writing about crime, the police, local politics, feature stories, environmental issues and a variety of other topics. She now writes for Reverb Press.

Megan supports Black Lives Matter and fights against racism, sexism, the corporatocracy, climate change deniers and others who continue to destroy the planet.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App